Recording and Mastering a Demo at Home:basics




Introduction: Recording and Mastering a Demo at Home:basics

This is just a basic idea oh how I record and master music. In the song demonstrating, there are two guitar parts and a drum track only, but I will mention what to do with bass and vocals, and what I do with different styles of music.

Step 1: Equipment

Of course, you don't have to have exactly what I list here, but they are things you will need to get a good quality recording for cheaper than a pro studio.

Microphone (I used an audio technica AT202. 100$, and is a very good quality mic)
Mic stand (I prefer a boom stand because it allows you to mic different angles)
Windscreen for vocals (if you're going to be recording many vocals and with different people, I recommend getting the metal mesh windscreen. It's 50$, but you can clean it, and it lasts longer.)
Interface (something to connect the mic to the computer. Lexicon's LAMBDA works well and is low-priced at 130$ also comes with CUBASE LE4)
Computer (as long as it has the power to run a recording software, use it.)
Cables (if you're only using one microphone, you're going to need a special adapter to get a stereo recording. one female->two male)
I also used a second monitor because all the windows kind of clogs up one screen. However, that is entirely a preference.

Step 2: Record!

There are different techniques in recording.

If you're mic-ing an amp, I found it best to turn the mic sensitivity down and turning the amp up. This keeps other sounds from coming into the recording, and the recording sounds louder, rather than sounding like more noise.

For vocals, I found it best to set the mic so it's slightly above the singer's mouth. this will keep them from pressing down on their larynx. You'll also want them to stand back from the mic so they don't peak it. A good starting distance is between 8 and 12 inches. Depending on the volume, they may need to move closer or farther (quiet singing closer, screaming farther) as well as the pitch (high's record very clear, while vocals in the lower range should be sung with lips almost on the windscreen)

for drums, to get the best recording, you're going to need more mics, and a different interface than I described. You'll want to place a mic at the bass drum, the toms, the snare, above the high hat, and above the crash. once again, mic sensitivity down you don't peak and damage the microphone.

Other instruments: I apologize, I have yet to work with them.

When recording, make sure you've practiced before hand and have warmed up so you can get the perfect recording in the beginning, rather than two stressful hours later. You can record straight through the song, or you can do it section by section. (I prefer to do it section by section. It makes editing different parts easier in my opinion)

Apologies for the TERRIBLE pictures of the screen. For some reason, my camera hate's screens.

Step 3: AB-ing

If you've been looking into making music and recording it, you've likely heard of AB-ing the music. That means test one to the other. When you're editing, it's good to have a compilation of songs that are mixed and mastered well. These songs may not necessarily be from the same genre of music, but something about them is perfectly done. It's a question of taste, so there's no much I can help with there.
When you AB your recording in editing, you isolate a track in the recording, for example, the first guitar. You want to compare the sound you recorded to the sound of another guitar you want it to be and tweak it until you get there.

Here the example song BEFORE any editing. (Demo_song: pre-edit)

Step 4: Layering

At this point, you're going to notice that the sound could be bigger, louder. What you'll do is double each track. (preferably, record each track twice, except for the drums. The differences will add a larger feel.)

once you double each track, you're going to want to place them where they will sonically sound better.
Should I explain?
When you record a song straight and do nothing to it, all the sounds are centre, meaning they come out of each speaker evenly. But think of a concert. Not all the sounds from the stage come from the centre, and sound even bounces back at you from the walls, the ceiling, and the people.

Drums should always be centre if you're mic-ing with one mic, or using loops (like I did). If you recorded the drums with more mics, then this is what you'll want to do:

Place the kick drum in the centre if there is only one, if there are two, place one slightly left of centre, and the other slightly right. The snare should be centre. The other drums should be places respectively (if your floor tom is on the right side of your kit, then place it on the right side of the speakers.. etc.)

If you have two harmonizing guitars:

Guitar 1: Place heavily to the left
Copy of guitar 1: place just off centre left. (in cubase, I place this around 10-25)
Guitar 2: Place heavily to the right
Copy of guitar 2: place just off centre to the right.

Guitar 1 copy guitar 1 copy guitar 2 Guitar 2

If you have a rhythm guitar and lead guitar:

Place the rhythm guitar on the outside (rhythm: left 50, rhythm copy: right 50)
Place the lead guitar more centre (but not DIRECTLY centre. Lead: left 25, lead copy: right 25)

Rhythm guitar lead lead copy Rhythm copy

If you have a rhythm and solo guitar:

The solo is treated differently than the regular lead because it is different. When someone hears a song, the solo is clearly different from the lead.
Place the rhythm as you would for regular lead, this time however, place both solo guitars in the centre.

Rhythm Solo Rhythm

Bass: centre

If you have only on vocalist:

place the vocalist centre

If you have two lead vocalists:

When they sing alone, place them centre, when they sing together, place them off centre (vocalist 1: left 10, vocalist 2: right 10)

Lead 1 Lead1/Lead2 Lead 2

If you have a lead vocalist and a backing vocalist:

Place the lead centre, the backing vocalist can be centre as we, however, i like to have their voice moving around. (sometimes left, some times right. but NEVER hard left or hard right.)



If you have a lead vocalist and several backing vocalists:

Place the lead in the centre, and the the other vocalists around them:


vox 1 vox 2 vox 3 vox 4

( at this point, you may want to label and/or colour the tracks if your program can do that. It helps keep your tracks organized.)

Step 5: EQ

Now that you have things layered, it's sounding better. But now you're wanting to bring out certain aspects of your recorded sound. this is where you'll do just that.


What I like to do with drums is beef up the sound, tone down the highs, and even the sound out. To do this, you edit one of the drum tracks (remember, all the tracks were doubled) with larger bass ends, lower the extreme highs, but also bring at the high-mids. This is the beefing up. On the other drum track, you will want to lower the bass end, lower the extreme highs, but bring out the mids. This is the balancing sound. Play them together, and tweak to your liking.

Harmonized lead:

Remember when you layered the guitars and put one hard left and the other hard right? Well, those tracks, bring up the bass and lower the highs. These tracks are used more like the sound bouncing off the wall, rather than the direct sound.
The two other tracks that are in closer to the centre, you'll want to lower the extreme lows and extreme highs while boosting the mids (the high-mids more so). this is the direct sound, which in live performances, the highs are clearer when direct while the lows are clearer when bouncing back.

Rhythm and lead:

The rhythm guitar tracks are hard left and right. Here, they are not emulating reflected sound, rather, they are emulating a side-to-side boundary. It creates a feeling on being surrounded by the music. With these tracks, you'll want to lower the extremes again, while boosting the mids (this time, the low-mids more so).
The lead guitar is panned towards the centre, so it is your direct sound. You'll want it brighter, without losing beefy qualities. Raise the bass just a little, drop the low mids, and raise the high mids a little higher than the bass.

Solo guitar:

EQ the rhythm as you would for lead.
The solo guitar is a touchy thing. Some people want it to sound just like the lead, while others prefer for it to sound like a third guitar. If you want it to sound just like the lead, EQ it like above.
If you want the solo to sound different, double your solo tracks, even the double, so that you now have four solo tracks. Place two of the solo tracks on the sides, (left and right: 50) leave the other two centre. The left and right tracks are treated like the rhythm guitar while the centre tracks are treated as leads.

Rhythm Solo Solox2 Solo Rhythm


You can generally leave it as is, however, when my band uses a bass, it's very clanky due to the bassist using a slapping technique, so we like to bring out the highs.


This is the hardest to EQ. Generally, lower the extreme highs and extreme lows, while boosting the mids. If it the vocalist is higher pitched, bring out more of the lower mids to round out the sound, while you want the bring out the high mids on lower pitched vocalists to brighten their tone.

Step 6: Effects!

Alright, so you've recorded your music, you've made the tone perfect, now you want to add cool effects and trick this out like a car. DON'T! Unless you know exactly what you want, or you're doing techno, subtlety is best with effects.

Chorus: creates tones that are partially off pitch

I hardly use chorus. If i do, it's used on the screaming vocals usually. Like previously stated, be careful. This one is tricky because, while adding a little bit of chorus can broaden a track, just a little too much can annihilate it.

Reverb: holds the notes out longer than actually played

One of the greatest effects, reverb will make a recording feel as if it were recorded in a larger room. However, you don't want to have too much reverb, otherwise it gets muddy. You can use reverb to create darker effects, but only do this after you've experimented for a while.

Harmonized lead:

use reverb on the hard left and hard right tracks, as they are the reflections of the music direct sound.

Rhythm and lead:

Use even less reverb on the hard left and hard right tracks.

Rhythm and Solo

If you're treating the solo as another guitar, you'll want a little on the left and right solo tracks, while you have more reverb on one of the centre tracks. This centre track with reverb will need to be turned down in volume A LOT, because it will get very muddy if you don't.

Lead vocals

use very little reverb. Just enough to broaden the sound a bit. Play it by ear.

Backing vocals

Use a little more reverb than the lead vocals, but less than you would on guitar.


use as much reverb as you do on a guitar. It's also good to isolate the last couple miliseconds and give them a stronger reverb.

Delay: repeats a note after played

Use it only for a short time. Never for the entire song. And use it very lightly.

Compression: balances volume for the track

Use compression on almost everything that's direct sound (don't use it on hard left or hard right tracks). However, you want a smooth compressions, so experiment until you find something subtle that brings out the quieter notes without damaging the rest.

Step 7: Enjoy the Final Product!

Now that you've finished, you're going to need to change your pants because of the awesome you just created.

Reminder: you will have to figure out what works best for YOU and YOUR music. There is no one set law or magic setting. Everything is different. If you're starting out, use what I said as a base and tweak it to fit your style or interests. And keep in mind, this will in no way replace a professional recording studio. This is just so you can produce a demo CD to capture the attention of a record label, not to make full-production discs. demo_song: post-edit

Participated in the
Art of Sound Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Puzzles Speed Challenge

      Puzzles Speed Challenge
    • "Can't Touch This" Family Contest

      "Can't Touch This" Family Contest
    • CNC Contest 2020

      CNC Contest 2020

    16 Discussions


    11 years ago

    This is a great Instructable, but you need to add a main image of the final project to the intro step. Please do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks!


    4 years ago

    This is a good guide, but there are a number of things to note.

    Firstly, you shouldn't mess withthe bass on panned tracks in most cases as it will just cause phase problems.

    Secondly, you can record Drums with one Mic, it's what the Beatles did.

    Thirdly, unless your singer has really good Mic technique, they should never get close to the Mic. Singers, ideally, should be around 20cm from the Mic to avoid proximity effect.

    Fourthly, EQ should mainly be used to cut out the extreme highs and lows in tracks that shouldn't have them. This will increase the headroom of the track.

    Finally, effects like reverb and compression should be used. As long as you have an HPF on your master reverb input send then nothing should ever get muddy.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I have been trying to learn how to do this on my own and this will be a big help. I have cubase so this is what I have been looking for.


    8 years ago on Step 2

    Just a word of advice, even though you may already know this. - You could replace your pictures of the screen with actual screenshots :P (By pressing the PrntScr button on your keyboard and saving the picture to a file) = )

    I really enjoyed this instructable - at last a no nonsense approach to recording which explains everything succinctly without once relating it to some software! Thank you this has really cleared up some grey areas on how to produce quality sounds - especially the duplication of tracks - thanks again!


    10 years ago on Step 7

    This is great advise and thank you for putting this together!! I have all the equipment to record and write the music, but the mastering is another beast all together, that I am quite unfamiliar with. This is a nice guideline to start with.


    10 years ago on Introduction

     you are a legend!  just what i needed :) steps 3 4 5 and 6 helped a lot, but for some reason i couldn't hear your demo song (?) anyway thanks :D


    10 years ago on Introduction

    very nice. i think i will benefit from steps 4, 5, & 6, especially.
    i dont have a PC for recording (or sequencing anymore either) but use a Boss BR8 with outboard equipment (synths n samplers). i think these tips on panning and EQing will be very helpful this winter.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

     I'm glad I could help out a little!

    The Jamalam
    The Jamalam

    10 years ago on Step 1

    Nice, I see that you're playing mafia wars on facebook ;)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I've tried that. It actually doesn't work. Mono records on the left side, however, if you try to pan is center, you just quiet it because there is no right side recording.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm glad it helped. I'd like to hear what you record. :D


    11 years ago on Step 1

    i see mafia wars in the background ahaha


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. :) I'm still learning, but this is where I'm at so far.